NEW BRIGHTON, Minn.-A woman who had been texting while driving caused a four-car pileup on Interstate 35W in New Brighton this spring that ended up killing a young woman and critically injuring her fiance, charges say.
Destiny Xiong, 35, of Hudson, Wis., was charged Wednesday with one count of criminal vehicular homicide and another count of criminal vehicular operation that resulted in great bodily harm for her role in the crash, according to the criminal complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court.
Xiong had been driving on 35W just north of County Road D on the afternoon of May 1 when she got a text from one of her children, the complaint said.
It was in response to a text Xiong sent to them about her intentions to pick them up at 2 p.m. After reading the reply, which said "Okay," Xiong tried to place her phone on the dash of her 2010 Acura, court documents say.
Instead, she accidentally dropped it. She was fumbling to pick it back up when the crash occurred, according to the complaint.
Xiong's vehicle smashed into a Honda Fit that had been stopped in traffic in the right lane. The area was under construction and traffic had slowed as cars merged to accommodate a lane closure, court documents say.
The impact of the crash forced the Honda Fit to rear-end a Chrysler Town and Country in front of it. That car in turn hit a Hyundai Santa Fe.
An off-duty Minneapolis firefighter witnessed the wreck and rushed to help. He was able to extricate a woman from the Honda Fit by cutting off her seat belt. A nurse who also stopped to render aid began performing CPR on the woman while the firefighter began tending to an injured man in the vehicle, court records say.
Both were eventually taken by ambulance to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.
The woman ended up dying of blunt-force injuries caused by the crash, the criminal complaint said. She was 32.
Her 37-year-old fiance sustained several broken ribs and a traumatic brain injury. He reportedly has no memory of the crash.
Xiong later told police she could not recall if she braked prior to smashing into the Honda Fit. Drivers of both the Town and Country and Hyundai Santa Fe said they had been at a complete stop when the collision occurred.
The Minnesota State Patrol later determined Xiong was likely traveling between 68 and 80 mph at the time.
Xiong could not be immediately reached for comment.
Distracted driving was deemed a factor in more than 86,000 crashes across Minnesota between 2011 and 2015, contributing to more than one-in-four crashes statewide that took place over that time period, according to the State Patrol.
In 2015, distracted driving contributed to 7,666 injuries and 74 deaths.
"As a driver, taking a few seconds for a quick text or message can be so tempting, but that decision can easily be the last choice you make. It's just not worth it when your safety and the safety of others are at risk," said Lt. Tiffani Nielson of the State Patrol.
"I think most Minnesotans would agree that distracted driving is one of the most infuriating behaviors they see on the road, yet it keeps happening. We ask Minnesotans to please pay attention when driving and speak up if you're a passenger with a distracted driver. There is no such thing as multitasking behind the wheel."
Nielson added that state troopers are increasingly on the lookout for distracted driving.
Troopers issued nearly 3,350 citations for texting and driving in 2016, up from about 1,200 in 2014.